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Kwara: Singing the emerald blues

*Gov Ahmed Abdulfatah and how not to rule a state

For Sebastian Barry, the Irish novelist and playwright, history is not passive but an active force that pursues it’s characters and clouts them over the head. Irish novelists are renowned for favouring misery over sparkling joy. But when Barry planted his particular flag on ‘The Summit of the Sorrow’, one of his most brilliant works, he looked beyond the tragedies of Irish history.

His thoughts were about the wreck of everyone’s history and everyone’s loss in a situation where you have a wrong leadership piloting the affairs of a state. It is indeed obvious that this is going to be a shorter century than the twentieth century which the great historian Eric Hobsbawm, has described as the shortest century in history. Times and epochs appear very short and fleeting when galloping and breath-taking events unfold mercilessly and with a cruel and relentless tempo.

How not to run a state: In Kwara state, the ghost of local colonial cartography has finally arrived at the banquet of imperial impunity. It is doubtful the state can overcome its crippling limitations except its people roll up their sleeves and set to work. Unfortunately, 17 years into the new century, the hope of renaissance that its people have for long yearned for is gradually dimming.

Kwara remains a classic example of how not to run a state. This is the ultimate political psychosis where a state is primitive in mind, soul and psychic but wears the gaudy apparel of modern governance. And as an overriding state task, Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed should urgently request for and replay the tape of his recent live radio programme, evaluate his performance and diligently award himself his deserved and appropriate grade.

Slickness than substance in governance assessment: In the first instance, this poor outing was unnecessary and ill-timed. Not at a time when Kwarans are thoroughly dissatisfied with his performance. Even if the governor considered it necessary to talk to his people, it was not well managed. As flaccid as the programme was, the governor did not talk like a governor. He carried the pained expression of a man struggling to explain himself out and sadly turned desultory stalemate into an issue of success.

His performance was neither masterful nor redeeming as the entire stories appear hidden in their ignored details. But he managed to do well by letting the people know that the burden of the last six years or so had reduced him to a transactional fellow satisfied with what he had so far offered Kwarans.

For the entire period that the programme lasted, it was a bore as he spoke with more slickness than substance. While the questions from a few listeners were the silliest, responses to them were too wordy and enmeshed in the arcane. The governor spoke of large themes as vocational centre, Paris Refund fund, Kwara Polytechnic, Local council funding, IFK, road works etc yet did not speak like a man with vision. His position on the vocation centre, Ajase-Ipo was not only laughable but showed the governor is really out of tune with the times.

Whoever heard of City & Guide anymore in Nigeria? While the idea of the centre would remain what it is for now, the truth is that government is an important direct employer and indirect job creator in every nation. Without government exercising this function, the economy will be reduced to perpetual depression.

Between State and local government administration: Again it is not convincing the reasons the governor advanced for not using part of the Paris Fund for local councils workers’ pay. Even if the government lay claim to be magnanimous in using a fraction from the fund to off-set part of the council’s obligations in the past, it should remember that the council areas are also integral part of the state.

The acknowledgement of this fact became so obvious that it enabled the Kwara Internal Revenue Service to take over the revenue drive of the councils thereby denying them of their traditional sources of generating revenue. As the third tier of government, the councils are created to complement government at the state level. As stated in the 1999 constitution, the emphasis is to use the local councils as a strategic instrument for foisting, promoting and implementing rural development.

It is no longer secret that the rural people are thoroughly marginalised into vacuous existence. For proper understanding of the logic in this theory, if for instance Ilorin local government council and other council areas neighbouring it are rightfully given their statutory allocation without interference, there is no doubt some of them would perform creditably well that such burdens of building roads, provision of portable water across these areas by the state would probably be lessened thus allowing state government concentration elsewhere. Denying the councils of such fund is not only misleading but also a disposition that would further bring total neglect to grassroots development having been virtually stripped off of their areas of jurisdiction.

Voodoo economics in budgeting: By the end of this month alone, Kwara would have raked over N12 billion into its coffers, the only in history – monies from the Paris Fund and the monthly federation allocation aside its internally generated revenue. All that this meant is that the state now has more money to balance up some of the workers unpaid wages and pensions and embark on more meaningful projects.

It remains illogical therefore to claim that the Paris Refund fund the amount which was not known at the budget planning stage had been implanted in the 2018 budget. This position is too elementary to be advanced. What if there was no such fund? Budgets are not just numbers detailing abstract expenditures and their sources. A budget reveals a vision for the future as well as the ideals shaping that vision. This claim therefore envisions a substantial shift with consequential failure.

The objective of this is selfish and narrow. It is a fallacy of classical economics that a state economy can be optimised by this voodoo logic. Either this type of system is jettisoned or we are consigned to debt slavery. Financial policy is a peculiar matter. For most part, Governor Ahmed, as a former banker, need to demonstrate more his understanding of the macro-economic processes of the state rather than depend on some amiable lumberjacks who are unequal to the task they encounter.

Kwara Polytechnic tuition: As a collective, the leadership appeared to have a feet of clay, heads of granite rock and hearts of ice. They know much but understand little. The manner the Kwara Polytechnic tuition matter was handled has also left much to be desired. A simple matter that would have been resolved rationally on account of our economic background is now left to be attended by a fire brigade approach. This is illogical and shameful.

Those that led government to this decision in the first place should be rightfully indicted for having ignored the attendant consequence of having an increment in tuition at this time but rather blame political rivals for their difficulties and disorientation. One keeps wondering how Kwara government deceives itself into thinking that most of its policies would bring perfect changes into the democratic system. We fool ourselves into thinking that democracy is an irresistible force but history provides a less assuring account.

Although, Governor Ahmed has just signed the 2018 budget into law but he must quickly acknowledge to himself that this is insufficient. He must jettison his neutral tendencies. There is no tenable halfway to good governance. He must be faithful to his good instincts. Kwarans are daily worried about his non-performance. What they expect is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives- action that is swift, bold and wise enough and not the type displayed on that unpopular live radio programme.

The governor should as a matter of state task review his economic and political strategies and stop worrying about the National Broadcasting Commission checking what he considers in his imagination divisive political radio programme. Even where it exists, it’s a challenge to his administration to buckle up. Also the government should instead draw a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability so that Kwarans will know, see and feel where their tax money and other monies are going and how they are being spent.

Should our destiny be written for us or by us? But Kwarans have a choice. We can either let government bad habits stand in the way of our progress or pull together to ensure that our destiny is not written for us but by us. We should place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and together write the next great chapter in our history. Merry Christmas to all as we hope for a prosperous new year in 2018.

 

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